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Economic Issues of Hispanics in the United States

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PDT)

Marriott Marquis, Cardiff
Hosted By: American Society of Hispanic Economists
  • Chair: Susan Pozo, Western Michigan University

Earnings Inequality for Asians and Hispanics: An Examination of Variation across Subgroups

Randall Akee
University of California-Los Angeles
Maggie R. Jones
U.S. Census Bureau
Sonya R. Porter
U.S. Census Bureau
Emilia Simeonova
Johns Hopkins University


Our analysis uses a novel data set that combines data from the confidential-use US Census
American Community Survey linked to administrative records from the IRS. In this new panel, we
follow the earnings (as indicated by individual level W-2 and 1099 forms) at the individual-level over
time for the Asian and Hispanic population in the U.S. for 11 years (2005-2015). Importantly, we
disaggregate these two race and ethnic categories into smaller subgroups to examine how aggregation
obscures different average outcomes across these groups. Our analysis focuses on several measures of
inequality and immobility. This paper is a follow-up to our prior analysis which examined income
inequality across the following race and ethnic groups: Non-Hispanic white, Black, American Indian/
Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Other Races (Akee et
al, 2017). In this analysis, we disaggregate Asian into the following groups: Asian Indian, Chinese,
Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. For Hispanics, we disaggregate into the following groups:
Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, Latin American. We use the self-identified race and
ethnic categories as provided in the American Community Survey for each individual. We are also able
to identify new immigrants (post 2005 arrival) and show how including this group affects measures of
earnings inequality and immobility.

Immigration Policy, Immigrant Detention, and the United States Correctional System

Mary Lopez
Occidental College
Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes
University of California-Merced
Manuel Pastor
University of Southern California


The increase in the number of apprehensions driven by the intensification of immigration
enforcement and the criminalization of illegal entry has led to an ever-growing number of
immigrant detainees waiting for their day in court.1 In FY2018, the average daily population
(ADP) of immigrants held by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) in authorized detention
facilities was approximately 44,872, an all-time high.2 At the same time, there has been a steady
increase in the immigration court backlog, with immigrants waiting on average 670 days until their
cases are heard in court.3 Where to hold individuals convicted criminally and civilly for
immigration-related issues has become a serious logistic concern (Wagner and Sawyer, 2018).
ICE has contracted with local public and private jails and correctional facilities to serve as
temporary detention centers and, at one point, it relied on U.S. federal prisons to house detainees. In 2016, three quarters of the average immigrant detainee population was held in privately owned facilities, and ICE currently spends more than $2 billion a year on immigrant detention centers operated through private facilities (Burnett 2017, Luan 2018). As the immigration detention system continues to expand, it is important to examine the relationship between immigration policy and the U.S. correctional system.

Do Immigration Raids Deter Head Start Enrollment?

Robert Santillano
Mathematica Policy Research
Stephanie Potochnick
University of Missouri
Jade Jenkins
University of California-Irvine


Immigration raids deter Hispanic families with a targeted family member from utilizing public services. Behaviorally, local raids increase the perceived probability of detection and deportation for mixed-status families—those with at least one undocumented family member—which in turn leads them to lower this probability by disengaging in public services. A large share of Hispanic families are mixed status, and increased fear and public mistrust amongst the Hispanic community following raids has been documented (Capps et al., 2007; Chaudry et al., 2010; Dreby, 2012; Hagan et al., 2011). Evidence has also shown that increased localized immigration enforcement negatively impacts educational outcomes and reduces health service receipt (Amuedo-Dorantes and Lopez, 2015; Rhodes et al., 2015).

This paper investigates the local deterrence effect of immigration raids for Hispanic families on Head Start enrollment. Head Start is the largest federal early childcare education program in the United States and provides education, health, and other services to low income families (Zigler & Styfco, 2004). Children in mixed-status families are particularly vulnerable if this deterrence effect exists since they face multiple disadvantages (Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011), and the benefits of preschool programs are well documented—particularly for English learners (Gormley, 2008; Magnuson et al., 2006). In fact, experimental evidence from the nationwide study of Head Start found that Hispanic English language learners benefited more than any other child subgroup (Puma et al., 2010). At the same time, qualitative evidence has captured concerns of Head Start administrators claiming that immigration enforcement around their centers has hindered efforts to engage Hispanic families (Murguia, 2008; NCLR, 2009).

To perform this study, we have created a comprehensive panel of nationwide immigration raids, program-level Head Start enrollment, public-school-level enrollment, other locally enforced immigration laws/policies, and county-level demographics over the late 2000s. The most novel of these data sources is county locations and dates of federal immigration enforcement raids on workplaces, homes, and communities that were conducted between 2006 and 2008. These were obtained by cross-checking raid listings from three immigrants-rights organizations—Centro Latino, Detention Watch Network, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network. These organizations track immigration raids through a variety of sources, including Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, news tracking, and immigrant networks. These data include large and small-scale raids, different types of raids (e.g., workplace, community, and residential), date and location of the raid, the target or federal operation of the raid, and often the number of individuals detained or arrested.

There are a two primary challenges to identifying the deterrence effect of raids on Head Start enrollment. The first is the non-random location of raids, which could relate to other migration patterns that influence Head Start enrollment. The second is separating the deterrence effect of keeping your child at home from a mobility effect of moving to a less hostile location. When focusing on locally enforced immigration policies, such as local partnerships between local law enforcement and federal officers (e.g., 287g and Secure Communities), both overall mobility of Hispanics and mobility of Hispanic school-aged children have been documented (Dee and Murphy, 2018; Watson 2013). However, since Head Start is a voluntary program, any change in enrollment will represent a combination of both deterrent and mobility effects.

We address the identification challenges through a combination of local-area matching with a triple-difference design. First, for the matching, 47% of counties have a Head Start program, and 17% of these (249 counties) have experienced a raid over our period of interest. To ensure we are comparing enrollment from similar counties, for each “ever-raided” county, we will use the donor pool of “never-raided” counties to identify a match that is similar on both Head Start enrollment patterns and other countywide demographic characteristics up until the time of the first raid. This is done one ever-raided county at a time using covariate matching techniques. Because it is done independently by county, this will ensure that pre-raid levels and trends are balanced across the ever-raided counties and their never-raided matches.

Second, for the triple-difference portion of the design, we will include Hispanic students enrolled in first grade to act as an additional counterfactual. Specifically, for clarity, we conceptualize this as a stacked difference-in-differences design that allows us to separate the deterrence effect from the mobility effect. Because school attendance in first grade is mandatory, a difference-in-differences estimate for first-grade Hispanic students will pick up any mobility effects caused from the raids, whereas, the difference-in-differences estimate for Hispanic Head Start students picks up both the deterrent and the mobility effect. By subtracting these two estimates in a triple-difference model, and assuming the mobility effect is the same for both groups, the deterrent effect will be isolated.

Finally, we will assess the robustness and credibility of our findings using two strategies. To assess the robustness of our findings, we will exclude hard-to-match ever-raided counties, like Los Angeles, to ensure our results are not driven by outliers. Second, we will assess the credibility of our design using placebo tests of never-raided counties. Specifically, we will focus on never-raided counties and randomly assign raids to these counties until the number of pseudo-raided counties matches the actual number of raided counties. We will then implement our research design to estimate the impacts from these pseudo-raided counties with the expectation of a null finding.

Preliminary findings suggest that county-level Hispanic Head Start enrollment does decrease following an immigration raid in the same county. Based on a general difference-in-differences estimate of Head Start students only, Hispanic enrollment drops by 9 percentage points following a raid. Our next steps are to implement the specific triple difference research design as well as the robustness and credibility checks.

Interior Enforcement, Deterrence, and Crime

Sandra Orozco-Aleman
Mississippi State University
Heriberto Gonzalez-Lozano
Mississippi State University


While previous studies have found that interior enforcement can impact immigrant location decisions, a question that remains unanswered is if interior enforcement might selectively discourage undocumented Mexican migration. In this paper, we analyze if interior enforcement deters immigrants lacking a job offer in the United States before migration or without prior work experience in the United States. Our findings show that a standard deviation increase in the index of interior enforcement increases the probability of observing immigrants with previous work experience and with jobs secured before migration by 1.9 and 0.52 percentage points, respectively. These estimates suggest that interior enforcement is responsible for an increase of 12 percent in the number of immigrants with experience in the US labor market and 5.2 percent in the number of immigrants with secured jobs. To better understand how an increase in the number of immigrants employed can impact the regions where tight immigration policies were enforced, we study the relationship between employment and crime. When we use individuals who spent less than one year in the United States, our findings show that immigrants who had a job were 4.8 percent less likely to commit a crime with mandatory prison sentence than immigrants who did not work. When we use immigrants who stayed more extended periods, we find that among those who stayed between one and seven years, employment decreased their probability of committing a crime by 17.2 percent. This evidence shows an unintended consequence of interior immigration enforcement. Tight policies tend to increase the probability of finding immigrants with jobs secured and experience in the US labor market. More employment not only decreases the likelihood of finding immigrants committing crimes in those regions but the costs associated with immigrants’ incarceration.

The Educational Progress of United States-Born Mexican Americans

Stephen Trejo
University of Texas-Austin
Brian Duncan
University of Colorado-Denver


Using microdata from the decennial U.S. Censuses of 1970-2000 and the American Community Survey from 2006 forward, we track changes in the educational attainment U.S.-born Mexican Americans over seven decades. We compare the schooling gains of Mexican Americans with the corresponding gains made by African Americans and by non-Hispanic whites. Our analyses produce several important findings. First, Mexican Americans have experienced enormous gains and have closed most of their large initial schooling deficit relative to non-Hispanic whites and all of their deficit relative to African Americans. Second, progress for Mexican Americans has been greatest in the lower tail of the schooling distribution. For many years, rates of high school completion were dramatically lower for Mexican Americans than for other Americans, but this gap is much smaller for recent birth cohorts. In contrast, although rates of college enrollment and college completion have been rising for Mexican Americans, these rates still fall far short of the corresponding rates for non-Hispanic whites. Finally, the initial schooling deficits and subsequent gains of Mexican Americans vary with their state of birth. These geographic differences suggest the potential importance of state-specific policies and institutions for shaping the educational progress of Mexican Americans.
Fernando Lozano
Pomona College
Luisa Blanco
Pepperdine University
Monica Garcia-Perez
Saint Cloud State University
José R. Bucheli
New Mexico State University
Juan de la Cruz
City University of New York-Lehman College
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics